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15 Biggest Dog Myths & Misconceptions: It’s Time We Stop Believing These
Dogs are a massive part of many people’s lives. They are one of the most popular pets in the world. Approximately 38.4% of all households in the United States own a dog – while only 25.4% own a cat.
However, there are many misconceptions about dogs out there. Surprisingly, the average dog owner gets quite a few facts wrong about dogs.
This article will discuss some of these common misconceptions and help clear a few things up.
1. Aggression Is Based on Breed
Many people consider some breeds to be more “dangerous” than others. There are whole laws focused on banning certain dangerous breeds.
Pit Bulls often fall into this category. Pit Bulls are one of the most common breeds considered “dangerous” (though what exactly counts as a Pit Bull isn’t even that clear). German Shepherds, Jack Russell Terriers, Collies, Chow Chows, and similar breeds are commonly considered aggressive as well.
However, the American Veterinary Medical Association performed a peer-reviewed summary of current dog aggression studies. They found that the breed of a canine isn’t linked to aggression or bite risk.
Banning certain breeds doesn’t seem to lower overall dog bites, either. Dog bites from that specific breed will go down since they are no longer allowed in the area. However, dog bites overall do not decrease.
Many other factors go into whether or not a dog is aggressive. For instance, the dog’s training and socialization are some of the most critical factors involved. Any unsocialized canine is more likely to bite than a socialized dog – no matter their breed.
2. Grain-Free Diets Are Healthier
Many dog owners mistakenly believe that grain-free food is automatically better than grain-inclusive foods. However, this is not necessarily the case – despite what many of the “premium” dog food companies would lead you to believe.
Dogs are not wolves. They have different dietary requirements. Dogs have evolved next to people for thousands of years, which has seriously changed their species.
Dogs have evolved to consume grains over the last thousands of years. Dogs have been eating grains from human settlements for thousands of years. Those who could digest grains more efficiently likely had the upper hand – passing the trait on to the next generations.
Furthermore, grain-free diets have been linked to certain heart conditions by the FDA. Canine dilated cardiomyopathy was linked to grain-free diets high in peas, lentils, legumes, and potatoes. The exact link isn’t clearly understood as of yet. However, it seems likely to have something to do with the lack of grain (or over-inclusion in peas and similar veggies) in a dog’s diet.
Grain allergies are also infrequent in dogs. Gluten allergies only happen in a select few breeds. Most allergies are linked with animal proteins – especially chicken and beef. Therefore, there are few reasons why you shouldn’t be feeding your dog grain-inclusive food.
3. Wagging Tails Are Always Happy
“But their tails are wagging!” is a common phrase amongst pet owners. Even if the dog is acting aggressively otherwise, tail wagging is often considered a sign of happiness. Therefore, if a dog’s tail is wagging, it must not be upset.
However, this is not true in the least. Tail wagging is not always a sign of happiness. It can also be a sign that your dog is stressed or anxious.
If your dog is in a confrontation with another dog, tail wagging is likely not a sign that your canine is having a good time.
If you notice other potentially harmful behaviors, don’t let tail wagging be an excuse not to step in and do something about it. While you’re at it, consider getting a book or two on dog body language to learn how to correctly interpret all your dog’s signals.
4. One Dog Year is Seven Human Years
There is a common misconception that one dog year is equal to seven human years. However, this is not true in the least. Different dog breeds have different lifespans, which means that they age differently as well.
Dogs don’t even age at the same rate as people. For instance, bigger dogs often hit sexual maturity later. However, they also live a shorter period. Their lifespan is not congruent with people in the least.
This theory likely came about by someone taking the average dog lifespan and comparing it to human years. Humans live about seven times longer than dogs. However, as we stated, a dog’s lifespan can vary so widely that this isn’t accurate in the least. It may work for some dogs, but this theory is inaccurate for the most part.
Your best bet is to look at your dog’s growth cycle – not compare their lifespan artificially to people.
This theory can be particularly unhelpful when dogs are younger. Dogs don’t develop at the same rate as people, including the age they hit sexual maturity.
If you want to learn more about dog development, we recommend purchasing an accurate book about puppies instead of relying on this old theory.
5. Dog Breeding is Easy
Many people mistakenly believe that breeding dogs is as easy as putting a male and a female together. But if you’re going to breed dogs correctly, there is a lot more that goes into it than this.
We do not recommend planning on breeding your dog unless you are a professional breeder. There is a lot more that goes into breeding dogs than most people realize. Dogs need genetic testing, regular health exams, and high-quality food if they’re going to breed.
You’ll need to research your dog’s pedigree, find a dog that’s suitable for yours, and then pay for the breeding.
If you’re going to do it correctly, it will likely cost thousands of dollars. It isn’t something you do in your free time. Furthermore, just because you bought your dog from a professional breeder for $1,000 doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to sell your dog’s puppies for that much. You aren’t a professional, and therefore will likely need to sell your dogs for much less. Plus, you’ll need to check if you are even able to breed your dog based on the contract with the breeder you purchased from.
You should plan on losing money on your dog’s litter, given the costs required to carry out successful breeding and produce a healthy litter.
6. Dogs Have Clean Mouths
Dogs do have natural bacteria in their mouth that helps them stay clean. However, it doesn’t protect the dog’s mouth against all bacteria – just certain ones! Therefore, dogs can quickly get you sick by licking your face or around open wounds.
Your dog cannot magically heal your wounds with their tongue – or even their wounds, for that matter.
This is a common misconception that can potentially lead to infections and illness. There is a reason dogs aren’t supposed to lick their incision after having surgery. It can irritate and introduce bacteria.
7. Rescue Dogs Have Problems
Rescue dogs typically don’t have problems. Most aren’t taken to a rescue or animal shelter because they have severe behavioral issues. Instead, they’re usually turned over to rescue around the time they reach adulthood when their previous owner figures out precisely what they’ve gotten into.
Puppies are cute and cuddle, but they can grow into big dogs. Many canines also go through a “teen” period around sexual maturity when they suddenly seem to take steps back behavioral-wise.
However, most dogs grow out of this stage in a year or two, when they settle down into adulthood.
People also turn dogs over to shelters due to changes in their financial situation or lifestyle. You’d be surprised by the number of dogs that are turned over simply because of their owners or moving or having a new baby.
Actual behavioral problems are rarely a reason for turning over a dog.
Therefore, when you purchase a rescue dog, you often aren’t going to end up with a dog with problems. Rescue dogs are just as likely to have underlying behavioral problems as a puppy you adopt. It’s all about how you raise, train, and socialize them from when you adopt them.
8. A Fenced-In Yard Is All a Dog Needs
Many people may put their dog in a fenced-in yard and assume they’re getting all the exercise they need. However, this isn’t true in the slightest. Many dogs will not exercise when placed in a backyard by themselves.
That isn’t how they work. They’d much rather spend their time laying around than exercising – unless something fun is going on! (They’re a bit like humans in this regard.)
Even if you have a fenced-in yard, you still need to take your dog on regular walks. Playtime in the backyard can be a great way to exercise your canine – but only if they’re using up a decent amount of energy. A dog trotting around the backyard is not exercising, but a dog playing fetch is.
Feel free to spend time playing in your backyard as part of your dog’s exercise requirements. However, don’t rely on them to exercise themselves.
9. Some Breeds Are Hypoallergenic
There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. No dog produces fewer allergens than another. The concept of a hypoallergenic dog isn’t genuine.
The proteins dogs produce causes dog allergies. All dogs produce proteins even if they don’t shed. Until they come up with a skinless, saliva-less dog, no dog will be free from allergens (and that would be pretty terrifying!)
Studies have found that different dog breeds produce about the same number of allergens. There is no difference between hypoallergenic breeds and non-hypoallergenic breeds. They’re the same in terms of allergens produced – and the symptoms they bring about in allergic humans.
However, there is some truth to this concept – just not in regards to dog breeds.
Different types of dog proteins exist, and not everyone is allergic to all of these proteins. In most cases, those suffering from dog allergies are just allergic to one or two proteins.
The most common protein is Can f 1. Sadly, all dog breeds make high levels of this allergen. It isn’t much you can do if you’re allergic to Can f 1.
However, other proteins are only produced in certain situations. For instance, there is one protein called Can f 5 that intact male dogs only produce. If you’re only allergic to this protein, you can be around female dogs without any issue. They don’t make the protein that bothers you!
Often, allergy tests check for all dog proteins at the same time. However, specific protein tests are available at your doctor’s office – you have to ask!
Don’t fall for the misconception that a hypoallergenic breed will prevent you from suffering allergy symptoms. That’s not the case.
10. It’s Harder to Train Older Dogs
There is no trainability difference between older dogs and younger dogs. Often, older dogs are easier to train because they have a longer attention span. Puppies tend to get distracted!
There is no reason you can’t train an older dog – even if they haven’t had much training as a puppy.
We highly recommend continuing training as your dog gets older. It provides excellent mental stimulation, which can help your dog age gracefully and engage in fewer destructive behaviors. Plus, the one-on-one bonding time is beneficial for all dogs.
If you continuously train your dog from a puppy to an adult, then you’re likely going to run out of tricks eventually. We recommend training your dog in more challenging situations with more distractions in this case. It’s an easy way to raise the difficulty without actually introducing new tricks.
11. Puppies Need Extra Food
Some misinformed puppy owners believe that feeding puppies more will make them grow bigger. However, this is not the case.
Feeding a puppy more may affect their rate of growth. They may become overweight or even obese as a puppy, for instance. But this won’t affect the puppy’s growth when they reach adulthood. They’ll still be whatever size they were originally going to be.
Too much food may mean that they are overweight when they hit adulthood.
Furthermore, overfeeding your puppy can result in all sorts of health problems when they get older. Overfeeding large breed puppies is associated with higher instances of hip dysplasia, for instance. The extra calories and nutrients make the dog’s hip socket develop improperly, resulting in potentially debilitating hip dysplasia for the rest of the dog’s life.
It is best to keep puppies lean and healthy. Now is not the time to build up your dog’s muscles! Many puppies will seem a bit on the skinnier side, as dogs tend to grow in height before they grow in weight. You can expect your dog to bulk up a bit after they hit adulthood.
12. Some Breeds Are Just Friendly
A few breeds out there are known for their friendliness – to the point that people consider them to be innately friendly. However, this isn’t always the case.
Some breeds have fewer innate territorial instincts than others, which often makes them less aggressive and more trusting of strangers. But that doesn’t mean that this breed will be innately friendly – they still require socialization.
Any dog breed can potentially become aggressive if they are not socialized properly. Don’t get a breed like a Golden Retriever under the misconception that they’ll be innately friendly without significant socialization. You will still need to take your puppy out and about to get them used to people!
13. It’s Easy to Tell When a Dog is Sick
It’s not uncommon for dog owners to ignore what they believe are relatively mild symptoms. After all, if a dog isn’t acting sick, they can’t be feeling “that bad.”
However, dogs are rarely upfront about their symptoms. Their instincts are to hide their potential signs of sickness until they absolutely can’t any longer. After all, they would be a prime target in the wild if they showed any signs of weakness.
If your dog begins to act sickly, they have likely been sick for a while -and it’s time to seek veterinary help. Sometimes, dogs don’t show any severe symptoms until it’s too late for an effective treatment. When dogs begin acting lethargic and refusing to eat, it is often past the time for a straightforward cure.
We highly recommend taking your dog to the vet at the first sign of trouble. They are very good at hiding their symptoms and can quickly head downhill once they begin acting sickly.
14. Smaller Dogs Are Better with Children
Children are small, so smaller dogs must be a better option for them. However, smaller dogs are typically never recommended for small children. Most small dog breeds are not appropriate for homes with children in the least.
This is for a few reasons.
Firstly, smaller dogs are more likely to be harmed by small kids. A child can easily hurt a Shih Tzu if they lay on them or try to pick them up. A hurt dog is very likely to lash out and bite the child. After all, they want the child to stop hurting them!
Most dog bites on children fall into this category. However, they luckily aren’t usually severe – more like “warning bites” to make the child stop hurting them.
Secondly, small dogs are also more likely to be scared of small children. This may be because a child previously injured them, or the dog knows the child may injure them. Many smaller dogs are quite untrusting of smaller children for this reason.
They may hide or snap at the younger child, for instance.
Socialization is helpful – but only to an extent. The more time a dog spends with a smaller child, the more likely they are to get injured by one accidentally. This injury can make a dog that was a bit untrusting of children blatantly aggressive.
For this reason, we only recommend medium to large dogs for most households with small children. Larger dogs are far less likely to be fearful of a young child’s exuberant nature. After all, they know that they probably can’t get hurt by them.
Smaller children can accidentally step on and roll over larger dogs without hurting them (though that doesn’t mean we recommend letting them do it – but accidents do happen).
15. Dogs Shouldn’t Growl
Many people correct dogs when they growl. However, we don’t recommend this in the least.
Growling is how a dog communicates that they don’t like a situation. If you take away their ability to communicate this simple fact, they’ll likely jump straight to biting.
You’d much rather have a dog that warns you about not liking something than jumping straight to biting. Growling is a warning that most people understand – even children. It stops them in their tracks and makes them rethink what they’re doing.
It’s a communication tool, even if it’s a negative one.
However, dogs taught not to growl won’t let anyone know they don’t like something, which means the action will continue. At some point, the dog will seem to just randomly bite – though they have been uncomfortable for a while.
These dogs are the most dangerous and likeliest to bite because they cannot communicate their discomfort otherwise.
Plus, your dog is allowed to be uncomfortable and express that discomfort – even if you don’t necessarily like it. Telling a dog not to growl doesn’t make them feel better about the situation. You’ll know when they feel better, as they’ll stop growling.
There are many misconceptions about dogs out there. Knowledge is a key to responsible dog ownership, so we recommend educating yourself as much as possible – starting with these common misconceptions.
Be sure you look for the scientific basis behind a “fact” before believing it. Many misconceptions are circulating out there today. But research has never been more accessible thanks to the internet.
Featured Image Credit: Arawolf, Pixabay
Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!
- 1. Aggression Is Based on Breed
- 2. Grain-Free Diets Are Healthier
- 3. Wagging Tails Are Always Happy
- 4. One Dog Year is Seven Human Years
- 5. Dog Breeding is Easy
- 6. Dogs Have Clean Mouths
- 7. Rescue Dogs Have Problems
- 8. A Fenced-In Yard Is All a Dog Needs
- 9. Some Breeds Are Hypoallergenic
- 10. It’s Harder to Train Older Dogs
- 11. Puppies Need Extra Food
- 12. Some Breeds Are Just Friendly
- 13. It’s Easy to Tell When a Dog is Sick
- 14. Smaller Dogs Are Better with Children
- 15. Dogs Shouldn’t Growl